General General News Rural Therapies — 12 March 2019
Colourful knitted bears sit in a box on the bench of a medical centre.
Photo: Mount Morgan Family Practice patients have taken up knitting teddys as part of their own treatment. (ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee)

Sitting in a hospital waiting room for hours on end can be emotional and draining, but a Queensland woman has found a unique way to make the most of her time during her husband’s cancer treatment.

Ann Sharp knits colourful teddies to donate to her local doctor’s surgery.

She said the process of knitting the bears worked as mental therapy, easing her anxiety about her husband’s treatment, and was also a way to give back to the community.

“It makes me a lot calmer, if I’ve had a bit of a stressful day you just sit and knit away,” she said.

“Your mind isn’t on whatever’s happening around you.”

Over the past year, Ms Sharp has knitted more bears than she can count and donated them as part of the Mount Morgan Family Practice’s “Care and Share Bear Project”.

“If it makes somebody happy that’s the best part,” she said.

A woman sits in a medical centre knitting with blue yarn.
Photo: Ann Sharp knits teddy bears for the Mount Morgan Medical Centre while she waits at the hospital for her husband who is undergoing cancer treatment. (ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee)

The Care and Share Bear Project

The project’s coordinator, local nurse Rebecca Rendall, said patients were offered the bears as support during their appointment and were free to take them home.

The project was initially launched as way to take away the anxiety and stress that sometimes came during a visit to the doctor.

“We wanted to do something that would make [patients] feel welcome,” she said.

“Teddy bears for most people is something they can associate with and often they see that as a comfort thing.

“The children would be passing through and they don’t know us.

“But they come in and, when we start talking to them with a bear, suddenly the ice is broken and the child comes to life.”

A woman smiles at the camera holding a box of colourful knitted bears.
Photo: Rebecca Rendall hopes to see more medical centres take on the initiative. (ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee)

Knitting treatment for addiction, arthritis and mental illness

Ms Rendall said the project expanded to help adults with addiction, mental illness, and people with a disability.

She said patients were now offered the option of knitting as part of their treatment.

“People with smoking habits or people that have food addictions, if we could get them to knit a bear or crotchet a bear … that was like a diversional therapy,” she said.

“We have a family that has gone through quite a traumatic experience in the past.

“[Knitting] helped them become less anxious and probably more open to talking about their experiences.”

Psychologists have commended the Care and Share Bear initiative and say activities such as knitting can have profound benefits for people’s mental and physical health.

A woman knitting with blue yarn.
Photo: Psychologists say doing an activity with your hands, like knitting, has meditative benefits and can help with mental illness. (ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee)

Associate Professor Talitha Best said, in this sense, knitting offered people in the community an opportunity to give back, while also promoting their own health and wellbeing.

“Using our hands generally activates a whole lot of different processes both from our emotional wellbeing and the actual function of our brain,” she said.

“It engages our brain in a focussed activity which by default helps us become a little bit more rested.

“That has a flow-on effect to reducing some of our stress and promoting stimulation in the brain related to that fine motor movement.”

This piece by Rachel McGhee and Jacquie Mackay was originally published on ‘ABC News‘, 6 March 2019.

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